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The mysterious world of memorial cards: is it because of The Way?

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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014; 2019)
Camino Primitivo (2016)
Camino del Norte (2016-2018)
San Salvador (2018)
Greetings!

After wrestling with the mind of the octopus, I now want to broach another 'miscellaneous' matter with the forum, in response to an old posting I read today which has a bearing on something I observed along the CF this year.

Memorial cards.

Now, once again, I'm not trying to stir people up with this; it is simply a phenomenon with which I am not well acquainted and at present I find it a little mystifying. If the subject of memorial cards is likely to revive painful emotions, however indirect the reference, then perhaps you want to stop reading at this point and ignore the thread.

Walking CF, or indeed on any route, I am often moved by the sight of a stone marker or crucifix setup to the memory of a pilgrim who died on their way to Santiago. I now recall also, with sober emotion, a submission in a guestbook by a pilgrim who spoke of the death of a wonderful veteran peregrino who succumbed to the stresses and strains of the Camino San Salvador, the very taxing mountainous portion I myself had just completed that day, after a great deal of effort. But this year, walking with my companion, we were often struck by the addition to long established and weather-worn memorials to fallen pilgrims of photographs, letters, notes, memorial cards, all placed on top of the shrine. In our naivety we asked, Can so many people have died on this very same stretch of the camino? Or on this very spot (say, at the top of a hill after a long climb)? Seems unlikely but not impossible.

Today I finally read the old thread that has been highlighted by Ivar, the one about those we leave behind, and soon I came across the reply by forum moderator Arn (24/01/2012): "I carried several Memorial Cards for my young nephew who was killed in a tragic accident...I placed them at several shrines along the Way. "

Ah-ha! So there is a reference to the practice. The thing is, my concern is not with the leaving of a memorial card in a church, a chapel, or a cathedral, but more specifically leaving a card (or a series of cards) on top of another memorial. Why would you do this, I mean why would you leave memorial cards to people who apparently did not die on Camino de Santiago...along the very same Camino de Santiago? Why, more to the point, would you attempt to, however unconsciously, steal focus from the memorial to someone who did die on 'the way', by placing your own memorial card and other mementos on top of the deceased pilgrim's stone? You presumably would not go to one of those bouquets of flowers one sees alongside a dangerous road, marking the spot where someone died in a traffic collision, and then place your memorial card on that spot, simply because you happened to be passing by.

This wondering of mine, inevitably, brings us back to The Way (2010). Tom (Martin Sheen), as I'm sure we all know, scatters the ashes of his deceased son, Daniel, at various spots along CF, including in one or two instances, at roadside shrines and maybe even on someone's grave (I need to watch again). Maybe you find that plot point touching, or maybe not. Question is, did this movie have any bearing on the activities of mourners who go around placing memorial cards for people who (unlike Daniel) did not die on the pilgrimage to Compostela, even on top of the memorials to individuals who did? And what do you think about it?

There are no shortage of OPs and replies on the forum regarding such subjects as littering, leaving all manner of things on the path, and sometimes the discussion includes the great heap of objects, not just stones, deposited at Cruz de ferro. The discussion can get testy, for sure. I hope my OP doesn't cause a row, and that I can get your pov on this phenomenon from whatever angle you view it. I resist using that tiresome adjective, 'appropriate', with regard to this behaviour, except maybe alongside its twin verb to restate the question: "Do you think it appropriate that mourners on CdS appropriate the memorial markers to deceased pilgrims by depositing memorial cards dedicated to non-pilgrims on the same spot?

Buen camino a todos,

Philippum
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I think it is quite simple. The camino is a very personal experience, sometimes religious or spiritual, when people have time and inclination to reflect on their lives and serious matters. It is often a milestone in a person's life. That makes it a good opportunity for placing a marker, or doing something ceremonial in a dramatic way (the drama being internal). The phenomena of posting or distributing death notices and making markers are not particular to the camino.

I can't imagine the the movie played a part in this behaviour. The movie's significance is often overplayed.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,2018, (2019)
This may well be a deviation from the OP’s question, but I took memorial cards of my late father- himself a James- on my first camino. The only one I actually recall leaving somewhere was on the altar in the chapel at Leon Cathedral. It was his birthday anniversary + I thought it quite fitting to place it there before the Sunday Mass, especially as the card carries the prayer of St Monica ... “Remember me at the Altar of God.” I’d placed it under the book stand and I have to say the priest took a visible double-take when he moved the stand and revealed the memorial card before the prayers of consecration. I felt very close to him at that moment.. and for the rest of the day.
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
I think people should do what they feel is right for their loved ones especially if they feel that they travel with them. I would also like to believe that this is a genuine question and not one just to get a reaction, that is not allowed.
 

Michael-FL

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho Portugues (2017)
Frances/Salvador/Primitivo (2021)
Greetings!

After wrestling with the mind of the octopus, I now want to broach another 'miscellaneous' matter with the forum, in response to an old posting I read today which has a bearing on something I observed along the CF this year.

Memorial cards.

Now, once again, I'm not trying to stir people up with this; it is simply a phenomenon with which I am not well acquainted and at present I find it a little mystifying. If the subject of memorial cards is likely to revive painful emotions, however indirect the reference, then perhaps you want to stop reading at this point and ignore the thread.

Walking CF, or indeed on any route, I am often moved by the sight of a stone marker or crucifix setup to the memory of a pilgrim who died on their way to Santiago. I now recall also, with sober emotion, a submission in a guestbook by a pilgrim who spoke of the death of a wonderful veteran peregrino who succumbed to the stresses and strains of the Camino San Salvador, the very taxing mountainous portion I myself had just completed that day, after a great deal of effort. But this year, walking with my companion, we were often struck by the addition to long established and weather-worn memorials to fallen pilgrims of photographs, letters, notes, memorial cards, all placed on top of the shrine. In our naivety we asked, Can so many people have died on this very same stretch of the camino? Or on this very spot (say, at the top of a hill after a long climb)? Seems unlikely but not impossible.

Today I finally read the old thread that has been highlighted by Ivar, the one about those we leave behind, and soon I came across the reply by forum moderator Arn (24/01/2012): "I carried several Memorial Cards for my young nephew who was killed in a tragic accident...I placed them at several shrines along the Way. "

Ah-ha! So there is a reference to the practice. The thing is, my concern is not with the leaving of a memorial card in a church, a chapel, or a cathedral, but more specifically leaving a card (or a series of cards) on top of another memorial. Why would you do this, I mean why would you leave memorial cards to people who apparently did not die on Camino de Santiago...along the very same Camino de Santiago? Why, more to the point, would you attempt to, however unconsciously, steal focus from the memorial to someone who did die on 'the way', by placing your own memorial card and other mementos on top of the deceased pilgrim's stone? You presumably would not go to one of those bouquets of flowers one sees alongside a dangerous road, marking the spot where someone died in a traffic collision, and then place your memorial card on that spot, simply because you happened to be passing by.

This wondering of mine, inevitably, brings us back to The Way (2010). Tom (Martin Sheen), as I'm sure we all know, scatters the ashes of his deceased son, Daniel, at various spots along CF, including in one or two instances, at roadside shrines and maybe even on someone's grave (I need to watch again). Maybe you find that plot point touching, or maybe not. Question is, did this movie have any bearing on the activities of mourners who go around placing memorial cards for people who (unlike Daniel) did not die on the pilgrimage to Compostela, even on top of the memorials to individuals who did? And what do you think about it?

There are no shortage of OPs and replies on the forum regarding such subjects as littering, leaving all manner of things on the path, and sometimes the discussion includes the great heap of objects, not just stones, deposited at Cruz de ferro. The discussion can get testy, for sure. I hope my OP doesn't cause a row, and that I can get your pov on this phenomenon from whatever angle you view it. I resist using that tiresome adjective, 'appropriate', with regard to this behaviour, except maybe alongside its twin verb to restate the question: "Do you think it appropriate that mourners on CdS appropriate the memorial markers to deceased pilgrims by depositing memorial cards dedicated to non-pilgrims on the same spot?

Buen camino a todos,

Philippum
Sorry if this might be redundant, but for Catholics, much of these practices stem from our theology and religious tradition. The seventh of the Spiritual Works of Mercy calls for us “to pray for the living and the dead.” In preparing for my last Camino, I had a laundry list of people, living and dead, to keep in my prayer intentions along the way. With my list was a handful of memorial cards for the departed, gathered from their funerals. There were also people who had asked me to pray for them along the way. At certain wayside shrines I tucked bits of paper with their names under stones. Whether they survived the elements did not matter. What mattered was praying for those people. That, I believe is part of the spirit of the Camino; to be on pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, a time to be alone with God.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014; 2019)
Camino Primitivo (2016)
Camino del Norte (2016-2018)
San Salvador (2018)
Sorry if this might be redundant, but for Catholics, much of these practices stem from our theology and religious tradition. The seventh of the Spiritual Works of Mercy calls for us “to pray for the living and the dead.” In preparing for my last Camino, I had a laundry list of people, living and dead, to keep in my prayer intentions along the way. With my list was a handful of memorial cards for the departed, gathered from their funerals. There were also people who had asked me to pray for them along the way. At certain wayside shrines I tucked bits of paper with their names under stones. Whether they survived the elements did not matter. What mattered was praying for those people. That, I believe is part of the spirit of the Camino; to be on pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, a time to be alone with God.
Thank you for the guidance on Catholic practice. Leaving bits of paper with names under stones at wayside shrines is immensely atavistic, and it sounds much less ostentatious than decorating a fallen pilgrim's memorial with memorial cards and other colorful stuff to a deceased non-pilgrim. I could well understand leaving the cards in a church, perhaps for a priest to name the deceased in prayers during a performance of the mass, but strewn along the way? The mind still boggles.
 

Derrybiketours

A journey of 500 miles begins with one step!
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SANT-FIN (09/2018)
PORTO-SANT (11/2018)
Caminho Da Fe (01/2019)
*Derry-SANT (09/2019)?
It's a good observation and question. Personally I didn't leave a memorial but I did leave behind a stone, not at the iron cross as would have expected but with a what I discovered soon after was fortune teller because I sensed that they needed it more and they offered me a reading which brought both us to tears. The difference between littering the trail and Pilgrims intentions by recognising loved ones with a memorial cards, photographs or sentiments on a piece of paper is the purpose and meaning behind these objects adds to the flow of conscious energy that flows on the trail. The energy in certain parts is tangible and without these random acts, duplication and offerings of intention the trail would arguably less impactful on other Pilgrims lives who come across these Camino moments and reflect on their own loss and memorial or simply reinforce that life is for living 🤠🙏
 
Last edited:

lizlane

Small Town Girl, Small Town World
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2019
The difference between littering the trail and Pilgrims intentions by recognising loved ones with a memorial cards, photographs or sentiments on a piece of paper is the purpose and meaning behind these objects adds to the flow of conscious energy that flows on the trail.
In my mind, cards, photographs and sentiments such as letters are not litter.

Litter is quite simply that which must be picked up, like toilet paper, feces, cigarette butts, plastic wrappers and bottles, even boots, thought I must admit I like photos pilgrims post of discarded boots along the way. I think most people wait for the next hostel to leave their boots for someone else.
 

Derrybiketours

A journey of 500 miles begins with one step!
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SANT-FIN (09/2018)
PORTO-SANT (11/2018)
Caminho Da Fe (01/2019)
*Derry-SANT (09/2019)?
In my mind, cards, photographs and sentiments such as letters are not litter.

Litter is quite simply that which must be picked up, like toilet paper, feces, cigarette butts, plastic wrappers and bottles, even boots, thought I must admit I like photos pilgrims post of discarded boots along the way. I think most people wait for the next hostel to leave their boots for someone else.
I agree, if you read again you'll see I'm making the comparison and your preaching to the converted. I'm in favour of all the memorial, photos and scribbled down intentions and as far as I'm concerned the more the better the energy on the way 🤠🙏
 

Derrybiketours

A journey of 500 miles begins with one step!
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SANT-FIN (09/2018)
PORTO-SANT (11/2018)
Caminho Da Fe (01/2019)
*Derry-SANT (09/2019)?
I should have been clearer that I agree, at least for me, they add to the energy of the path. 🙏
I don't think it a case of clarity you paraphrased my pov which is aligned closely with your own whereas the original contributor seems to be implying that some memorials are placed where others have been in some way more appropriate or spread randomly throughout the trail represented by all manner of strange and wonderful objects. With respect maybe paraphrase Pilgrim DP 🤔
There are no shortage of OPs and replies on the forum regarding such subjects as littering, leaving all manner of things on the path, and sometimes the discussion includes the great heap of objects, not just stones, deposited at Cruz de ferro.
 
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